The Coronavirus appears to be taking a "different pathway" in Africa compared with the rest of the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

Why untested Covid-19 cure claims are dangerous

CAPE TOWN- Throughout recorded history, plagues and viruses have sparked fake and bogus cure claims which could lead people to a false sense of safety.

In an article that first appeared on The Conversation, researchers say that untested claims of Covid-19 cures and remedies could make people easy targets for cure scams. Those who fall victim to fake cure claims are often among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. 

Fighting these scientifically untested cure claims is integral to containing the Covid-19 pandemic says division director at the African Population and Health Research Center, Chimaraoke Izugbara and lecturer in the Department of Demography and Social Statistics at Obafemi Awolowo University, Mary Obiyan.

During the time of the Spanish flu pandemic, which lasted for close to a year in 1918, there were also fake cure claims which generated a false sense of safety and led hundreds of people to defy the isolation rules. 

In the early 1990s cure claims for HIV caused many deaths around the world. Izugbara and Obiyan said that a Nigerian surgeon with fringe training in immunology Jeremiah Abalaka may have caused the deaths of dozens of people who came to him for treatment. 

More recently, during the Ebola epidemic, two people died in Nigeria and 20 more hospitalised after a fake cure claim circulated that drinking excessive amounts of salt solution could prevent Ebola infection.

Izugbara and Obiyan say that history could sadly be repeating itself with the claims the Madagascar’s herbal “cure” makes which is promoted by President Andry Rajoelina.

The Madagascan cure was invented by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research as a herbal drink that can both prevent and cure Covid-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned the country not to use the drink as a remedy against the deadly coronavirus, because it has not been clinically tested.

Izugbara and Obiyan say that in order to stop false cure claims from doing more harm there needs to be robust mechanisms for holding scam cure claimants and hucksters accountable.

Governments as well as online and traditional media should maintain vigilance on cure scams and promote health education, says Izugbara and Obiyan.


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